Should Acquiring A No. 1 Wide Receiver Be The Eagles' Top Priority?
Last year, DeSean Jackson was clearly the Eagles' most productive receiver with 62 catches for 912 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Instead of a clear-cut No. 2, in terms of numbers, the Eagles had three receivers - Jason Avant, Hank Baskett and Kevin Curtis - who each had 33 or more receptions. Baskett had the most yards of the three with 440 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles actually led the league with eight players who had 25-or-more receptions, a tribute to the offense's ability to spread the ball to a variety of different targets.
But would a No. 1 wide receiver make the Eagles a bona fide Super Bowl champion? After a trip to the NFC title game last season, the Eagles already have to be in the conversation of Super Bowl contenders. Would a No. 1 receiver improve the offense? No question. But is that the difference the Eagles need?
The Eagles did make the Super Bowl the year they had their most dynamic threat at wide receiver - Terrell Owens. He was 11th in the NFL in receiving yards that season, but he didn't play in the playoffs until the Super Bowl. The No. 1 receiver that season, in terms of stats, was Carolina's Mushin Muhammad with 93 receptions for 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Panthers, however, did not make the playoffs. The Patriots, who beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, were led by two underwhelming wideouts - David Givens (56-874-3) and David Patten (44-800-7). Of course, it was another receiver, Deion Branch, who was the Super Bowl MVP.
In 2005, when the Steelers won the Super Bowl over the Seattle Seahawks, neither team had a receiver in the top 10. Carolina, once again, had the league's top receiver as Steve Smith gained 1,563 yards on 103 catches and 12 touchdowns. The Panthers made the playoffs, but the problem was Smith was the only weapon on offense. There was no one else to pick up the slack once defenders keyed in on him.
Chad Johnson, now known as Chad Ochocinco, led the league with 1,369 yards to complement his 87 catches and seven touchdowns in 2006. The Bengals, however, did not make the playoffs. The Colts won the Super Bowl and they had two terrific wideouts in Marvin Harrison (95-1,366-12) and Reggie Wayne (86-1,310-9). Remember that the defense turned in an incredible performance once the postseason started and it was the rushing game that keyed the offense in the Super Bowl. Still, the rushing game is much better when defenses have to account for two of the league's best receivers on the same team.
Wayne put up amazing numbers again in 2007 as he led the league with 1,510 receiving yards. He also broke the 100-catch plateau with 104 and 10 touchdowns. But the 2007 season will forever be remembered for the Patriots' amazing run with the league's No. 2 receiver Randy Moss and Wes Welker, the 11th best. After the Patriots deemed that it was the lack of superstar talent at the receiver position that kept them from the championship the previous year, they went on a receiver bonanza and enjoyed the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history. The only problem is that those receivers were unable to put up big numbers in the Super Bowl and it was the Giants who enjoyed the upset win. Plaxico Burress caught the championship-winning pass, but it was special teams ace David Tyree who made the grab against the helmet to put the Giants in position to win.
The same situation basically happened last year. The Cardinals boasted the league's No. 2 and No. 15 receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Houston's Andre Johnson (115-1,575-8) was the top dog, but the Texans didn't make the playoffs. The Cardinals did make the Super Bowl, but it was the Steelers who won after Santonio Holmes' amazing grab with 35 seconds remaining. Holmes certainly wouldn't have been considered a top-tier receiver and his numbers in 2008 (55-821-5) would validate that.
The Eagles, like any team, would be better with a top-flight receiver. The problem is that none are available on the free agent market. There will be some up for grabs in the draft, but Jackson put up numbers that would be hard to top for a rookie. Any established, veteran receiver would have to be acquired by trade, but at what cost? It could be done, but aren't there other positions that need to be addressed?
That's what the Eagles have to determine if they want to acquire a No. 1 receiver.